MINSTER — In the late 1960s, a small dairy farm was nestled in rural Auglaize County just south of the town of Minster. Meyer Dairy owned and operated a small ice cream manufacturing operation at the site.
In 1968, events began to unfold that would forever change the local landscape. The Dannon company, founded as Danone in Paris, France, sought to open its second yogurt manufacturing facility in the United States. The company in 1929 made its foray into the United States yogurt market as Dannon Milk Products Inc.
Dannon officials honed in on the dairy-rich area of West Central Ohio and leased space inside the Meyer Dairy ice cream factory, making yogurt on a second shift while ice cream continued to be churned out during the day. But before 1968 was over, Dannon purchased the Meyer Dairy operation, kicking off a presence in Minster that will be marked later this year with a gala 50th anniversary celebration.
Plant manager Joe Box said the company hopes to hold a real “shindig,” with political leaders and community dignitaries on hand to help the company celebrate.
Box said Dannon is “the largest public benefit corporation in the United States,” a designation that comes only after a lengthy certification process. In a nutshell, said Box, the “public benefit” designation means the company has pledged “to do good financially for our shareholders’ while at the same time making a return to the environment and the community.
“We’re a business with a purpose,” Box said. “Our mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible” while being a good neighbor and community partner.
More than 230 different yogurt products are made at the Minster facility. Fourteen production lines run around the clock, 365 days a year.
“Cows don’t go on vacation,” Box said.
The company currently employs 422 workers and will add approximately two dozen more when two new lines are added later this year.
Dannon has invested $150 million in the Minster facility in the last three years alone, Box said.
The Minster plant is the largest yogurt production plant in North America, Box said, in terms of square footage, employees and “volume in and volume out.”
In terms of the amount of milk processed annually, the Auglaize County facility is the largest in the world, with more than 1 billion pounds of milk brought to the factory each year. The overwhelming majority of that milk comes from within a 100-mile radius of Minster, providing a stabilizing effect on the prices area dairy farmers receive for their product.
Box moved to Ohio from New York three years ago to be the plant manager in Minster.
“I’ve loved every minute,” he said. “This is a great company.”